[Originally published on June 2020 at bit.ly/bgsportsspecial]

As individuals, each of us has a unique sense of coping with any troubling events; more often than not, we try to compensate our fears with assurance. But assurance rooted from the absence of urgency has its setbacks. When faced with something urgent, one must be quick in thinking of an equal response. It is not defined by its due date, but its effect if not done immediately. When the government lacks the sense of urgency and belittles small things such as a virus, its people pay the price.

The coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) is caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), formerly known as the 2019 novel coronavirus. It hit the news as a new strand of coronavirus reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) after a case of pneumonia with an unknown cause had been discovered. It became a pressing issue come January 30 when WHO declared it a “public health emergency of international concern.” This was also the same day when the Philippines had its first confirmed case of the virus with a Chinese woman from Wuhan who traveled to the country via Hong Kong. Due to the rising cases of this virus, people around the globe were advised to protect themselves from the virus.

As more countries became affected by this emergency, more countries started to close their borders in order to prevent the virus from spreading. It was just on January 31 when Malacañang declared a travel ban from China when our country had its first confirmed case. Because of the steady escalation of local transmissions weeks after, Metro Manila was placed in community quarantine on March 15. During its second day of implementation, March 16 started the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon wherein people were immobilized to avoid the spread of the virus. As the cases grew, the Philippines was put in a six-month state of calamity on March 17. On these three consecutive days, and those that led there, panic ensued.

The once complacent society turned awry as the quarantine began. In order to decrease the rising number of cases in the country, the government released guidelines that Filipinos must follow. An overwhelming number of questions due to confusion arose because of conflicting orders. When the quarantine was enhanced, most people were stuck in their homes, yet numerous people still worked despite the health emergency concern. Unfortunately, they were not supported properly by the administration and were even criticized by their fellow Filipinos.

A global health concern being inadequately handled showed the cracks in our communities; it showed how ill-prepared the country was for such a calamity. Our prime defense of addressing the mass being insufficiently executed brought about panic. Being uninformed and misinformed, the proper response was not done by the public. It made Filipinos even more vulnerable to speculations and wrong information, even leading to discrimination.

The pandemic has not only caused casualties but also brought division between social classes. The enhanced community quarantine in Luzon made it harder for the working class to get to their work because of the restricted movement, but they could not afford to take days off without pay. Implemented measures such as suspension of mass transportation and arrest without a warrant made their lives more uncomfortable and placed their families’ lives at risk.

Most people used social media as a way to share their opinions during the crisis. While some bore results for the benefit of all, other privileged Filipinos posted insensitive comments about low-wage workers. In lieu of the criticism given to the administration, some added that citizens should all just cooperate with the government, which shows that some fail to realize that criticizing the government and following it are not mutually exclusive. One can ask the government to do a better job and still
follow its rules.

The rapid escalation of our response may be a show of urgency. However, the main difference between urgency and panic is an organized plan. For whatever the future holds for this virus, the country should quickly strategize for a system that will solve the current pandemic and further prevent future cases. We, Filipinos, have proven over history that working together—our true bayanihan—brings us to success. With quick responses and unified efforts, the country can get through this pandemic. Altogether, let us stay vigilant and never be afraid to hold anyone accountable.

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